Jun 08 2000

Palestinian decision-making

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

The coming three months will witness a major push in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. A moment will come when the leaders of Israel and Palestine will have to choose peace or the continuation of the conflict. This could happen in a Camp David-like summit or a draft peace agreement most like to be presented to both sides by the Americans sometime in August.

Israel’s general decision-making process is well-known. It includes the mini-cabinet, cabinet, Knesset, and finally the referendum. What about the Palestinians? There is a mistaken impression that such decisions are restricted to one man.  True, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, is the person who will ultimately make the final decision, but before he reaches a conclusion one way or another, a lot needs to happen and the opinions of many people, organizations, and countries will be involved. 

Traditionally, the PLO chairman has made decisions based on consensus. He listens to various points of view in the Palestinian community and finds a middle ground that is acceptable to all sides.

With the Oslo Accords, the consensus-building stopped and a firm decision was made that was rejected by a sizeable minority of society.

Since setting up the Palestinian Authority, Arafat and the Palestinian leadership have attempted to return to consensus politics, but with little success.

An elected legislative council clashed with the president.  Local leadership attacked some of the policies publicly, and the local and Arab satellite media showed no mercy towards the newly established Palestinian leadership.

The Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon has further complicated the situation. Not surprisingly, Arafat and the key PA spokesmen rejected the claims that Hizbullah routed Israeli out of Lebanon. Accepting this thinking would mean an end to the present peace process.

The question remains: Which parties have more influence on Palestinian decision making. external or internal? Is the opinion of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak or the Palestinian Legislative Council more important? How about the US, and even Israel?

Some argue that without Israel the Palestinian Authority could not hold its weekly session, so the Israeli weight is tremendous.

Others say that the international community can force Palestinian to their knees by turning off the financial donor faucet. But are these outside forces more important than opinions of the average Palestinian in Gaza or Jenin? How is the view of the Palestinian public reflected within the decision-making process? Are the recent closures of local Palestinian radio and television stations a reflection of the Palestinian leadership’s concern about giving the people an effective media voice?

In the final analysis, a decision about the final status of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be made.

On the Palestinian side, a variety of external and internal forces will attempt to weigh in on the Palestinian leadership. Leaders often find themselves alone in making such decisions.

My personal reading is that at the present time it is doubtful that the Palestinians will accept a less than fulfilling agreement.

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